Philanthropic Michigan Couple Gives Additional $52 Million to Help College Students

DETROIT–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A Michigan couple is contributing millions in support of their commitment of changing lives through education.

Bob and Ellen Thompson believe in education’s ability to make a significant difference in someone’s life. Their latest gift of $52 million is to support Thompson Working Families Scholarships (TWFS) at four institutions that partner with the Thompson Foundation. The Thompsons already have contributed $33 million to TWFS and the additional $52 million means more than 5,200 students will receive support.

The Thompsons have partnered with Grand Valley State, Saginaw Valley State and Michigan Technological universities and the Thompsons’ alma mater, Bowling Green State University, in Ohio, according to John Cleary, CEO of the Thompson Foundation. Each partner university provides matching funds.

It was Ellen’s idea to help what she termed as “working families» when the TFWS program was established in 2011. When working with university representatives, Ellen recognized a gap in financial support for students.

The students who receive Thompson Working Families scholarships must maintain a specified grade point average and commit to community service hours. Universities agree to provide resources to maintain high cohort graduation rates.

Bob Thompson has a message for scholarship recipients: «You can do things to help others, one-on-one, and make it happen. You’re almost obligated by me to do that. Do what you can and someday I hope you’ll look back and say, ‘This changed my life.'»

About the Thompsons

Bob Thompson was born in 1932 on a small farm in Jonesville, Michigan. He attended Bowling Green State University on a football scholarship and earned his teaching degree in 1955.

Ellen (Bowen) Thompson was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1954 with a teaching degree. She taught at elementary schools in both Michigan and Ohio.

The college sweethearts married in 1955 and will celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary this year. They moved to Michigan to take teaching positions in Detroit.

The business success of the Thompsons began with $3,500 in savings from Ellen’s teaching position that the couple, along with Thompson’s uncle, Wilford McCully, used to start the Thompson-McCully Co., a contract road paving company, in 1959. The couple established the Thompson Foundation in 1999 and Thompson Schools Foundation in 2002.

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Alex Solis, BGSU,
Michele Coffill, GVSU,
J.J. Boehm, SVSU,

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